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N. Korean IOC Member Wants Discussions on Unified Korean Team at Pyeongchang

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was elected last month on a platform of a more moderate approach to Pyongyang including dialogue to ease tension, inspected the test-launch of a ballistic missile on Friday that is being developed by the South's military.

Amid soaring tensions over Kim Jong-Un's nuclear weapons program, North Korea has tested a rocket engine that could potentially be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile, a USA official told AFP.

A second USA official also confirmed the test but did not provide additional details on the type of rocket component that was being tested or whether it fit into the ICBM program.

Political science professor Yoo Ho-Yeol at Korea University said the test was "a carefully calibrated act of provocation ahead of the summit".

Over the decades since the peninsula was divided, dozens of North Korean soldiers have fled to the South through the Demilitarised Zone, which extends for two kilometers either side of the actual border.

More than 30,000 North Korean civilians have fled their homeland but it is very rare for them to cross the closely guarded inter-Korean border, which is fortified with minefields and barbed wire.

Also Friday, Moon oversaw the test-firing of a home-grown missile with a range of 800 kilometres (500 miles).

"If North Korean athletes participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics, I think it would greatly contribute in realizing Olympic values, which are about bringing humanity together and promoting world peace", said Moon. In March, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully tested a new high-thrust rocket engine, which state media described as "another miracle" in the history of the country's national defense industry.

Outside observers say Pyongyang's space programme is a fig leaf for weapons tests.

The head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress last month that North Korea, if left unchecked, was on an "inevitable" path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

The test was essential to ensuring that South Korea had the "readiness" to counter Pyongyang's developing missile and nuclear programs, the Blue House said, and to "gravely warn" Pyongyang not to carry out further provocations.

Calling North Korea the "top security threat" to the United States, Tillerson said China has a "diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region".

In April, North Korea unveiled what could be a new ICBM at a giant military parade in a show of strength.



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